Confronting an Active Attacker

By Robert Hale, Toronto Police Service Published: 8 a.m. January 4, 2017
Updated: 8:20 a.m. January 4, 2017

It’s an inevitability that police officers know they must be prepared to face – a person with a weapon attacking a public place.

A man and woman in TPS uniform looking in opposite directions
Constables move through a hallway during active attacker training at The Scarborough Hospital

Active attacker training, which has been part of the Toronto Police College curriculum for frontline officers since 2008, is conducted at schools, malls and public spaces throughout the year. Recently The Scarborough Hospital opened the training to a portion of their campus.

“This is an area where there are unique problems within the hospital because they’ve got patients so it’s an opportunity for our officers to train within a facility like that as well as train with the hospital staff  because they haven’t done it before either,” said Training Constable Christopher Stone.  “Each new space gives officers a set of challenges they need to confront – in a mall you have multiple levels and wide-open spaces, in a school, you have narrow spaces and lot of different rooms.”

He said in every scenario officers are often “swimming upstream” against a current of fleeing innocent bystanders in order to confront the threat as quickly as possible.

“You have to be able to navigate through different environments,” Stone said, of moving through an environment quickly in order to preserve life while keeping cognizant of potential threats.

@TorontoPolice Active Attacker Training at The Scarborough Hospital

The training supplements officers' regular use-of-force training each year.

“It’s good training because officers come from all over the city so you train with guys you don’t normally work alongside,” Stone said.

Andrew Moull, Emergency Preparedness Specialist at The Scarborough Hospital, said the training is essential for any public institution.

“Active attackers are a risk in any workplace, and so we want to make sure our staff are prepared,” he said. “We want to make sure we can respond to this situation to protect our patients, our visitors and staff. So, it’s important we train for this scenario and not turn a blind eye to the risk.”

He said working alongside police heightened the level of training.

“I think not enough emphasis typically has been put on training in a lot of organizations and I think it’s fantastic TPS takes a lot of opportunities to go to different places likes schools, like malls and, in this cases a hospital because it prepares them to go into any type of scenario with unique properties. For us, we have patients who might not be able to get out of the way and we have medically trained staff on-site to assist afterwards,” he said. “These situations are occurring all over North America, we’re very fortunate we haven’t had any in Toronto yet, but you never know if and when it’s going to happen.

Men in TPS uniform listening to a man in a red hat speaking
Officers are briefed on the exercise by a training facilitator
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